ER24 medics are a vital part of the continuum of care for our community. They work on the frontline of emergency care and are often exposed to trauma in different forms.
This is how we take care of our medics’ psychological wellbeing.
ER24 paramedics are well-accustomed to dealing with crises. As first responders frequently tasked with managing scenes of disaster, be it multi-vehicle pile-ups or catastrophic mudslides, they have to be. But that does not mean they are bulletproof.
Medics are challenged by trauma like anyone else, says Tammy Dicks, the national coordinator of ER24’s trauma counselling service. She would know: she and her team of counsellors work round the clock to ensure medics on the road have a safe space in which to debrief and process what they see.
“The ER24 paramedic comes from a very reputable training academy; these are handpicked people,” she explains. “They are well-prepared to be emotionally challenged.”
Support for first responders has long been a challenge in the emergency medicine industry. “In the old days, what did we have? We said it’s the nature of the job, it is what it is. Cowboys don’t cry – deal with it. We had no concept of where to start training to manage your own mental health.”
Today, this picture is very different. “This was one of the reasons ER24’s trauma support service was established – to be more present for medics who needed help. In 2010, the company employed and deployed trauma counsellors in every province.”
Tammy Dicks explains that the department has a few primary goals: to decrease anxiety in the aftermath of a traumatic event, to teach crisis management techniques that help staff members and the public, and to assist in learning valuable lessons from the triggering event.
Because trauma affects people in different ways, learning to cope with it is an ongoing process of learning and personal growth. “You must remember, trauma is an experience that threatens someone’s health or life, or that of someone close to that person. It can overwhelm whatever normal, or usual, coping mechanism that person may have in place. We could be talking about a divorce, or a pet passing away; witnessing an accident victim in intense pain. That is trauma.”
Working in emergency medicine can pose undefined challenges. Medics face constant uncertainty and anxiety as they work to manage an increased patient load while trying to reduce risk for patients and those around them.
Caring for yourself is an extra, silent responsibility that many paramedics have never acknowledged. ER24’s trauma counselling department is equipped and ready to offer them the support and care they need as they support those around them.
“Our medics are people who need to face the heat of immensely emotional and even hysterical events, with a sense of humanity and humility. They need to bear the brunt of that with pride. What does it take? It takes positivity, and a high level of energy – and it takes vigilance.”
Medics are often hard on themselves, expecting to meet unrealistic standards. “To manage yourself personally, in terms of your mental health, is not an easy thing. It’s important that they attend to the concerns inside them, and you have to realise you have to heal however you can. Every situation is unique. There is no one size fits all. You need to find peace.”
Talking to someone has immense value. “We have an anonymous support line specifically for staff, and our branch managers encourage their teams to speak up. We often lose sight of our own lives. We may have seen patients as they suffered through trauma; where some of them were in a lot of pain; some of them were fighting for their lives. This can be difficult to process. And those are the things you need to communicate. That’s part of your life story. And you need to tell that.”
ER24’s trauma counselling service includes:
- Telephonic counselling offered by a qualified case management team member or one of our trauma counsellors.
- Face-to-face trauma counselling with our specialist trauma counselling team.
- Critical incident management (assaults on employees, natural disasters, etc.) and emotional support.
- Referral to a specialist network of psychologists and psychiatrists if required.